There is no questioning Dalvin Cook’s ability as a running back (RB). His brisk and slippery traits, combined with his ability to break tackles and extend runs, are exactly why he’s a premier runner in the NFL. Injuries, though, have plagued him in his career. On Sunday, Dalvin Cook went down again with what the team is calling a “shoulder injury”. This isn’t a new injury for Dalvin Cook. In fact, this is the same injury that we saw last season and back in 2021. Many experts say that this is likely going to be an ongoing issue for the rest of Dalvin’s career, but it begs the question. Should Dalvin jump back into the starting lineup, or should he rest up and rehab his shoulder? The decision to rest him should be easy, and I’ll explain why.
After Sunday’s victory over the Lions, the Vikings are now 2-1 and tied for 1st place in the NFC North with three more games until their Bye Week.
@ New Orleans (London)
Outside of Miami, there is no real threat on the schedule. The Saints are beat up, with rumors that they could be without their starting QB and two starting WR’s. The Bears are a team that’s rebuilding, and we play them at home. Miami is 3-0 and just beat the Bills last week, who many believe could represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. Sure, any team can win on any given Sunday, but on paper, this looks like a schedule and team that should be 4-2 headed into the bye week. This would give Dalvin 5 weeks from when he hurt his shoulder to rest up and get right for the remainder of the season.
The Depth at RB
There is another argument for resting Dalvin Cook, and his name is Alexander Mattison. Since being drafted back in 2019, Mattison has been a competent backup to Dalvin Cook, while also filling in admirably in Cook’s absence. Sunday proved no different. When Cook got injured, he also fumbled. This took the air out of the crowd. They just witnessed their star RB wincing on the ground in pain, while Lions players were celebrating that they’d forced a turnover. Any glimmer of hope the Vikings had might’ve gone out the window. But two drives later, the Vikings offense got the ball back and capped it with a powerful touchdown (TD) by none other than Alexander Mattison. Outside of the TD, Mattison didn’t amount to many more opportunities in the run game (3 rushes for 12 yards), mainly because the Vikings were trailing. Mattison proved, though, that the offense can still function without Dalvin Cook.
It’s not even just the physicality on runs that makes Mattison an efficient backup, he brings with him a skill set to help in pass protection as well. These brief examples from Sunday, as well as what we’ve seen on tape in previous seasons from Mattison, should give the Vikings coaching staff confidence that they can sustain a successful offense sans Cook.
In addition to Mattison, the Vikings have two young running backs on the team who showed potential in the preseason. Kene Nwangwu is a name fans are likely familiar with, as he made a name for himself last season as a kick returner, and he played sparingly in a few games last season at RB. Kene has speed, and combined with Mattison’s downhill running, they could complement each other very well.
The other RB on the roster is rookie Ty Chandler. Chandler had a strong showing in the preseason, rushing for 115 yards and 1 TD on only 15 carries. He’d likely be a combination of Nwangwu and Mattison, as Chandler has good speed, power, and elusiveness.
There is no doubt that Dalvin Cook is a great RB. But, in the NFL, it’s very rare that you have a perfect opportunity to allow players to rest and recover. In fact, most players are probably rushed back too soon. With the schedule and depth at RB, the Vikings can play this smart and truly allow Dalvin to rest up and recover. And if the goal is to make a playoff push, they’ll be kicking themselves if he hurts his shoulder more and isn’t around to help them. So, this is my plea to the Vikings and Dalvin Cook. Take your time recovering, Dalvin. The Vikings will be fine.